The Silicon Difference

Issue no: 2, July 1999: Finding Chess Resources on the Internet - Part 1

How does one find anything on the Internet? There is so much information and and so much non-information on the Internet. How does one find a needle in this vast internetworked haystack? This issue and the next will attempt to go some way toward answering these questions.

A little history might place some of this in perspective.
 

Before the World Wide Web

Tools that predated the World Wide Web include:

  • Telnet (for connecting to local or remote computers)
  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol, for downloading files from remote computers, largely superseded by the World Wide Web)
  • email (electronic mail, for sending a message to one or more people)
  • newsgroups (or more formally, Usenet newsgroups)

Before the days of the World Wide Web, finding information, if it existed, was easier in the sense that there was much less of it, but harder in the sense that many of the tools that we now take for granted did not then exist. The World Wide Web provided a user friendly interface to the Internet. The result was a revolution. Now anyone can interact with the Internet.

Newsgroups

Be More Interactive

Many Web users today do not even know of the existence of newsgroups. One reason for this is that surfing the web is so easy and so much fun. Why walk when you can catch a taxi? Well sometimes we miss out on something when we always take the easy path. Conventional Web interaction tends to provide a one way flow of information. You can flit about and choose from links that take you to interesting places. Take your current interaction with this issue of The Silicon Difference, for example. You may make choices while exploring but I will normally know nothing of this interaction. Certainly there are sites that provide for interaction beyond mere exploration. This interaction might include eaves dropping on the user, the filling out an electronic form or the sending of email.

How does one initiate an interaction on the Internet? There is of course email. But with email you need to know who your target audience is. What if you do not know your target audience? One answer is to pose a question or respond to another message in a newsgroup.

How Can I Use Newsgroups?

Newsgroups are not necessarily supported by your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or host site.  If newsgroups are supported they may be available via your Web browser. You may need assistance from your ISP or host site webmaster to establish access.

Why Bother?

Why would you go to the trouble to find out about newsgroups? Well, if we think of the World Wide Web as a huge library with extensive but complex indexes, then we might think of newsgroups as communities of common interest where we can participate rather than just soak up the contributions of others.

Chess Newsgroups

 Chess players may be interested in one or more of the following communities or newsgroups:

  • rec.games.chess.analysis
  • rec.games.chess.computer
  • rec.games.chess.misc
  • rec.games.chess.politics

Tell Me More!

To find out more about newsgroups visit News.announce.newusers official archive.

New users are advised to subscribe to the newsgroup news.announce.newusers (for regular informative assistance) in addition to any groups they are interested in.

Advice For New Players

Be warned that some newsgroups have some rather destructive 'contributors'. I refer to these destructive 'contributors' as parasites because they seek to stifle meaningful debate, trivialise the work of others and fill up some newsgroups with their rubbish. Often parasites use assumed names and/or use anonymous addresses. Some even develop multiple identities so that when they respond to their own messages it might appear that someone else has done so.  My advice is to ignore parasitic postings even if you are the brunt of their post. The only way to destroy a parasite is to starve it of its life force, in this case a response.

Before posting a message to a newsgroup, you should learn something of newsgroup culture per se and the culture of your particular group. To learn about the culture of your particular group, you should observe the group for a while and also look up the appropriate FAQ, if it exists.

FAQ

FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions. Users of newsgroups would often ask the same or similar questions. The most common of these were often compiled into lists of Frequently Asked Questions together with answers. This should be the first port of call for the user of a newsgroup. Not all newsgroups have FAQs. Not all FAQs are what the name implies. Many FAQs consist of advice, information and sources rather than a list of questions and answers.

If a newsgroup has an FAQ, and not all newsgroups do, it might not appear in the newsgroup when you most need it. This is probably because your news host has expired (or thrown out) old news items. There will be more about finding missing FAQs in the August issue.

Steve Pribut has maintained the rec.games.chess.misc FAQ for several years. Check the main chess FAQs and much more at Steve Pribut's Chess Page.

Some Useful Chess Sites

Information on the Internet is largely transient, ie here one day, gone another. The following short list of sites should whet your chess appetite:

News

This will be a relatively regular feature of this column. As the column appears monthly, much of the news will be stale. News here will highlight some of the more important recent and current Chess and Computing happenings.

Garry Kasparov is taking on the World in a chess game. Care to join in or just see what is happening? Visit Kasparov vs the World.

Stefan Meyer-Kahlen's Shredder won the 9th World Computer Chess Championships at the University of Paderborn.

Site of the month

This month's SOTM is the Exeter Chess Home Page. This site has resources for almost every chess taste. Of particular interest is the Exeter Chess Club Coaching Page, with lots of useful scholastic chess links.

Hero of the Month

Mark Crowther is this month's HOTM. Mark has kept the Internet chess community abreast of current news for several years with TWIC or The Week in Chess.

Next Month

Consider the following two broad requests for information:

  1. Find out about Saint Teresa of Avila and chess.
  2. Find out about chess in Malaysia.

I have had recourse to explore both requests recently. The first request pertained to a claim that I made to a colleague that Saint Teresa of Avila was proclaimed the Patron Saint of Chess. I recently attended Nilai College in Malaysia to deliver some Database lectures (as part of La Trobe University, Bendigo's relationship with international students) and to present a guest seminar titled Computers and Chess. Thus I sought to satisfy the second request.

The August issue of The Silicon Difference will seek to look at specific examples including the above to illustrate how to find chess resources on the Internet using Internet directories and search engines.